Last night, the Senate took an important step towards passage of the USA FREEDOM Act by approving a procedural vote to start debate 77-17. However, Senator McConnell introduced a number of amendments to weaken the bill. The amendments could be considered as early as tomorrow. CDT has provided an analysis opposing these measures, which are unnecessary for security, weaken privacy, and risk a prolonged debate in the House during the ongoing lapse in Section 215 authority that began at midnight last night.
The amendments are:
- Amendment 1449: Enacts a vague data retention notification requirement on private business and requires certification from the DNI on effectiveness of a transition, despite the fact that the bulk collection program has shut down, and the NSA Director has said the current transition period meets national security needs.
- Amendment 1450: Extends PATRIOT Act bulk collection authorities for an additional six months, despite strong opposition to this authority and statements by the NSA Director that the current 180-day transition period meets national security needs.
- Amendment 1451: Weakens the FISA Court amicus created by the bill by removing its ability to access all necessary documents and information, and removing the requirement that the FISA Court state in writing when it refuses to allow an amicus to participate in proceedings that present a novel or significant interpretation of law.
- Amendment 1452: Removes the requirement to declassify important FISA Court opinions, permitting the development of overbroad surveillance authorities in secret that contravene public desire and Congressional intent, as occurred with Section 215 bulk collection authority. Also enacts all of the problematic changes in the previous amendments.
CDT will oppose the USA FREEDOM Act if these amendments are added to the bill, and urges the Senate to pass the version overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives last month, which can then immediately be signed into law.